21 Things Only Parents of Teenagers Would Truly Understand

Once your kid becomes a teenager, it's a whole new ball game...

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: 21 Things Only Parents of Teenagers Would Understand

If you’re the parent of a tween or teen, then chances are, you’ll probably be able to relate to at least some of these things only parents of teenagers would understand. If you’re not quite a parent of tweens or teens yet, here are a few things you have to look forward to…

21 Things Only Parents of Teenagers Would Understand


#1 The Smelliness

Their B.O., their P.E. uniform, their FEET! Man… the smell will literally knock you over! The tough part is that, for some reason, they can’t smell themselves. My son would plop himself next to me on the couch and I’d nearly faint from the smell and he’d be like, “Wait… what? Do I smell?” Umm… yeah, dude, you smell. Go take a shower. (Narrator: But he didn’t take a shower. Instead, he just sprayed himself with 12 squirts of Axe Body Spray that lingered in the house for days.)

#2 The Swinging Hormones

One minute they’re gleefully enjoying life and the next, the world is crashing in around them. One minute they’re sweet and kind and loving children and the next they’re slamming doors, rolling their eyes, and blaming you for ruining their life. Oh, their swinging hormones… it’s the real reason parents of teens want to escape to a cabin in the woods for a month with a case of their favorite booze and an endless supply of chocolate. 

#3 Constantly Hearing “There’s Nothing to Eat”

It doesn’t matter how much you spend on groceries or how hard you try to keep a stocked fridge with all their favorite food, your kids will always walk in the door after school and complain that “there’s nothing to eat.” It’s a fact.

Their second favorite comment to spout out is, “But moooom, you didn’t buy groceries, you just bought ingredients!” 

#4 Worrying… About Everything

No one warned me about this one. I worry about everything… my kids’ grades, their physical and mental health, if they’re lonely, if they’re happy, their future, their safety, the amount of time they spend on their phone and computer, that they’ll make good choices when the chips are down, that they won’t cave into peer pressure, that they’re listening to anything I have to say… and on and on and on. Even though I know no problem has ever been solved by worrying, I still do it. Because that’s what moms (and dads) do. 

#5 The Stress of Teaching Them to Drive

The first time my oldest got behind the wheel of our 4,000-pound Toyota Rav 4, I acted remarkably calm on the outside for a mom who was freaking out on the inside. (Little did she know I snuck a shot of Tequila before we hit the road.) Despite the fact that most kids handle learning how to drive fairly well, most parents admit that it’s the most stressful, scary, white-knuckling part of parenting teens. 

#6 Then… Watching Them Pull Away 

Teaching our kids how to drive is one thing. Watching them pull away ALONE is another thing. That’s when you realize just how little control you really have over your kids’ safety and all you can do is pray (a lot) that God keeps ’em safe. 

#7 Their Closed Bedroom Door

Heads up, parents of littles. One day, when you least expect it, your tween or teen is going to go into their bedroom and they won’t come out for 5 or 6 years. Okay… maybe I’m exaggerating just a bit, but I think we can all agree that our kids’ bedrooms become their sanctuary and we’re only invited in on their terms. The best we can do is remind ourselves it’s all pretty normal, that they need this time and not to take it personally. 

#8 Their Messy (Okay, Slightly Disgusting) Bedroom

Someone once told me, “If I strategically placed five hampers all over my teen’s room, they’d still manage to throw their clothes where there wasn’t one.” But it isn’t just the clothes. Teenagers (most, anyway) turn into slobs. Cups, bowls, spoons, empty water bottles, papers, makeup, unidentified objects… sure, they might clean it on a Saturday afternoon after you put the hammer down, but within two days it looks exactly the same. (Hint: close their bedroom door. It makes the house seem cleaner.)

#9 Their First Real Heartbreak

Nothing, and I mean nothing prepares you for your child’s first heartbreak. It’s like a piece of your heart breaks right alongside your child’s. The worst part is, it’s not like you can grab a band-aid to cover up the “ouch,” or take them out for ice cream, and somehow, that will make things all better. This is one of those adult-like problems we can’t fix. And, it totally sucks. 

#10 How Awkward (and Sweet) They Are

Their lanky arms, their klutzy big feet, their pimpled cheeks, their clunky braces, their awkward, well… everything. It’s hard not to look at our tweens and teens and just smile. It’s a crazy short phase that also happens to be the sweetest. 

#11 They’ll Argue About Anything… Literally

At the drop of that first hormone, they’ll fight you, argue with you, debate you or challenge you on just about everything. It’s really irritating until you realize that they’re just trying to find their voice and stand on their own two feet.

#12 Everything Seems Bigger

Mistakes, consequences, responsibility, feelings, emotions, the grocery bill, the pile of laundry… heck, even their feet are bigger. That’s why parenting teens is so darn exhausting… because everything “little” about our once little kids has faded into the distance and we’re left with a mountain of “bigness” that wears us out and weighs us down. 

#13 Cashing Out Big Bucks for Cell Phones

Man, are teenagers clumsy. “Mom, I dropped my phone in the toilet.” “Mom, I smashed my phone in the car door.” “Dad, I jumped in the pool with my phone.” I could buy a cheap car for the amount of money I’ve dished out to replace old phones, broken phones, and new phones. “Mooom, can I pleaaase get the new iPhone?” 

#14 The Cool Conversations You Get to Have with Them

The best part about raising teenagers is the cool conversations you get to have with them. Out of nowhere, your kid has an opinion on a news story, something they read or politics and you’re shocked because their perspective is so wise or insightful or witty or downright inspiring. 

#15 Knowing How Much They Still Need You (Even if They Don’t Admit It)

Yep… teenagers are notorious for acting all cool with their “I don’t need you anymore” attitude. But, parents of teens know better. “Mom, can you drive me to my friend’s house?” “Dad, I need help with my math homework.” “Mom, can you make me my favorite dinner tonight?” “Can you give me a backrub?” Suuuurree, they don’t need us. 

#16 They’re Still Little on the Inside

I’ll bet if you looked in most teens’ bedrooms right now you’d find a soft, cozy blankie or stuffed animal they’ve had since they were five on their bed. Teens might look all grown-up on the outside, but they’re still little on the inside. They might pretend to have it all together, but they secretly still love Disney movies, Nerf guns and Barbie Dolls.

#17 The Endless Laundry

Piles and piles and piles of never-ending laundry. Enough said. 

#18 They’re Glued to Their Cell Phone

I don’t remember the last time I had a full conversation with my son where he didn’t at least glance at his phone. Truth is, I have a love/hate relationship with cell phones. Yeah, my kids stare at their phones all the time, but at least I have the comfort of knowing I can contact them when I need them AND they can always get a hold of me. 

#19 The Best Late-Night Conversations

When my son comes home from school, after I get a, “Hey mom… wassup,” he’ll escape to his bedroom with a plateful of Oreos and a cold drink where he remains until it’s absolutely necessary to mingle with the living.

That is, until around 10:00 or 11:00 at night when he emerges as the chatty, social, “I’ve got something to tell you,” loves his mama, boy I once knew. As exhausted as I am, I always try to hang on long enough to get a 20 or 30-minute conversation in because those late-night conversations are the absolute best. 

#20 Lovin’ Them on Their Good Days, Bad Days and Every Day In-Between

Oh, it’s so hard. In fact, no one tells you how damn hard it is. But every parent of teens inherently does it. We love our kids through it all – their calm and sweet and good days, their “chaotic, drama-ridden, hormonal as hell days” days and every day in-between. Why? Because it’s what parents do…

#21 Watching Them Become Exactly Who They’re Meant to Be

When it comes to things only parents of teenagers would truly understand, this tops the list. It’s the best part… being on the front lines – watching them blossom, watching them find their voice, watching them figure out who they are, finding their passions and strengths and seeing them become a little more confident with each passing day. It’s like watching a miracle in the making, a little magic happening before our very eyes. It’s what makes it all so worthwhile. 

If you enjoyed, “21 Things Only Parents of Teenagers Would Truly Understand,” you might also enjoy:

10 Things Every Parent Should Do When Their Kid Becomes a Teenager

10 Myths About Teenagers Every Parent Should Stop Believing


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